Critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

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Joseph Leo Koerner
Bollingen Series XXXV: 57. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 448 pp.; 275 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780691172286)
Joseph Leo Koerner is a verbal virtuoso, a master of alluring alliteration. Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life is spangled with melodious word combinations like “devil dangles,” “seeming secrets,” “farthest fringe,” “hellish hill,” “sylph-like soul,” “shunning the sun,” “spiders spin,” and “rafters of the ruined hut.” Indeed, the title, with its catchy pairings of Bosch and Bruegel, enemy and everyday, already employs this stylistic device, signaling the... Full Review
September 27, 2017
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Sarah Robinson and Juhani Pallasmaa, eds.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 264 pp.; 47 color ills.; 24 b/w ills. Cloth $34.95 (9780262028875)
In 2015 a book of edited conference papers appeared that could have a widespread and profound impact on both architectural practice and education. Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design is a persuasive introduction to research in brain science and its application to environmental design that stems from the founding of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (AANFA) in 2003, an outgrowth of the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Mark Mussari
New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. 193 pp.; 33 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (9781474223720)
Hygge is hot. According to the New York Times (December 24, 2016) and the Guardian (October 18, November 22, December 16, 2016), the Danish concept, which translates roughly to coziness, is the lifestyle trend of the moment. Hygge is so popular that it made the Oxford Dictionary’s shortlist for 2016 “word of the year.” A number of recent books outline the concept, explain its history, and instruct on how to develop it in your own home. Hygge-dedicated... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Carolyn E. Tate
The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and the Culture of the Western Hemisphere. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. 359 pp.; 268 color ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780292728523)
In Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture, Carolyn E. Tate eschews the well-trodden path of the iconography of rulership to reveal the central role of the unborn, women, gestation, birth, and regeneration in the art and ideation of the Formative-period peoples of Mesoamerica. Based on this imagery, specifically its fidelity to embryo and fetus representations, she argues that empirical observation played a prominent role in Formative-period epistemologies of gender and creation. While... Full Review
September 22, 2017
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Frances Gage
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016. 248 pp.; 48 color ills.; 18 b/w ills. Cloth $89.95 (9780271071039)
Frances Gage’s Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome: Giulio Mancini and the Efficacy of Art investigates the medical rationales for collecting art that are scattered throughout a well-known treatise by Giulio Mancini (1559–1630), Pope Urban VIII’s physician. Mancini’s medical thought was retardataire in the era of the Lincei, but his artistic connoisseurship was innovative. Thanks to Gage’s book, Mancini can now be appreciated for adding painters to Sandra Cavallo’s categories of... Full Review
September 15, 2017
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Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang, eds.
Blackwell Companions to Art History. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. 584 pp.; 86 b/w ills. Cloth $195.00 (9781444339130)
Meant to serve as a pedagogical tool to “stimulate comparative contemplation about broad and basic issues in the history of art” (1), A Companion to Chinese Art, edited by Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang, is a collection of twenty-five essays by some of the leading scholars of Chinese art history, history, and literature. It adopts a thematic structure, devoting five essays to each of five general topics commonly taught within art-historical surveys—production and... Full Review
September 15, 2017
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Howard Williams, Joanne Kirton, and Meggen Gondek, eds.
Rochester: Boydell Press, 2015. 293 pp.; 67 b/w ills. Cloth $99.00 (9781783270743)
The eight essays in Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape, along with a substantial introduction by editors Howard Williams, Joanne Kirton, and Meggen Gondek, offer original insights on the objectness of early medieval sculpture: they describe physical encounters with monuments, mnemonic qualities of stone, and multiple reuses of artworks, medieval and post-medieval. A main strength of the volume is its thematic, rather than geographic or... Full Review
September 15, 2017
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Deirdre Heddon and Dominic Johnson, eds.
Intellect Live. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2016. 336 pp.; 160 color ills. Paper $28.50 (9781783205899)
I never met Adrian Howells. I never let him wash my feet, hold me, or invite me to launder my clothes with him. Touching, and being touched, by a stranger within the context of a performance has evoked both empathy and apprehension in me, and often raises the question of who is meant to benefit from such an awkward, constructed form of engagement. When confronted with a one-to-one performance, the fear of harm, physical or emotional discomfort, and embarrassment wrestles with my curiosity,... Full Review
September 8, 2017
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Kobena Mercer
Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. 384 pp.; 111 color ills. Paper $29.95 (9780822360940)
Kobena Mercer’s Travel and See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s gathers eighteen essays written in the span of twenty years, from 1992 to 2012, which offer an extraordinarily rich journey into the intellectual process of one of the most significant critics to emerge from the British cultural studies tradition in the 1980s. This is a journey of discovery and exploration of the work of artists of the black diaspora working under the sign of the “postcolonial modern,” as... Full Review
September 8, 2017
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Sabine T. Kriebel
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. 352 pp. Cloth $65.00 (9780520276185)
Sabine Kriebel’s book Revolutionary Beauty: The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield is a study characterized by its exceptional rigor and intellectual intensity. Although written in a meticulously sculpted language, precise and full of imagery, this work does not claim to be a definitive, closed, or unequivocal object. Focusing on the monteur John Heartfield, a major artist who curiously has received little scholarly attention until now, Revolutionary Beauty does not... Full Review
September 8, 2017
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